For 17 years, the Orioles used the Rule 5 draft as a way to bolster their major league roster, a streak that spanned five regimes.
It’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward way to add talent. A team can select an unprotected player from another team’s farm system for only $100,000 and place him on its 26-man roster. If the selection works out, it gets a major league-ready player who can make an impact. If it doesn’t, and the player isn’t active for at least 90 days, the player returns to his original team.
The Orioles have found great success doing this, bringing in Tyler Wells from the Twins in 2020, Anthony Santander from Cleveland in 2016 and Ryan Flaherty from the Cubs in 2011.
But on Wednesday, with a faint “Baltimore will pass,” the streak of picks ended. It was expected. The Orioles were not planning to make a selection unless one of a few names remained by the time they got to pick in the 29th position.
Still, it was an end of an era. The Orioles do not have the roster flexibility or the need to account for a Rule 5 selection.
They could have used this as a means to select a pitcher — they are in search of a starter and a reliever this offseason — but they opted to add via either free agency or trade, or promote from within. The bullpen, in particular, has little wiggle room. Jacob Webb, Cole Irvin, Cionel Perez, Danny Coulombe and Mike Baumann are out of options, and Yennier Cano is essentially off limits.
“This group is more mature in their careers now; a lot of them are either un-optionable or people that are unlikely to be optioned,” general manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias said, adding, “On top of it, we may be bringing in more veteran relievers on unflexible contracts.”
The Orioles made a selection in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, taking right-handed pitcher Nelvis Ochoa from Colorado. Ochoa, 20, has pitched two seasons in the Dominican Summer League.